SSI Program Beginnings

Legislation creating Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was signed into law on October 30, 1972, by President Richard M. Nixon as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-603).
SSI was a new Federal income program for the aged, blind and disabled who have low income and resources. The Social Security Administration was assigned responsibility for it.
Based on income and resources , not work, Supplemental Security Income is very different from Social Security retirement, survivors or disability benefits. SSI is funded by general revenues, not Social Security taxes, and pays benefits to disabled or blind adults and children having limited income and resources. SSI benefits are also payable to people age 65 or older without disabilities who meet the financial limits.
Why was SSI created? The following is from the “Historical Development of Economic Insurance” article in the History section of the Social Security website:
“In the original 1935 Social Security Act proograms were introduced for needy aged and blind individuals and, in 1950, needy disabled individuals were added. These three programs were known as the "adult categories" and were administered by State and local governments with partial Federal funding. Over the years, the State programs became more complex  with as many as 1,350 administrative agencies involved and payments varying more than 300% from State to State.
In 1969, President Nixon identified a need to reform these and related  programs to "bring reason, order, and purpose into a tangle of overlapping programs." In 1971, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Elliot Richardson, proposed that SSA assume responsibility for the "adult categories." In the Social Security Amendments of 1972, Congress federalized the "adult categories" by creating the SSI program and assigned responsibility for it to SSA.
SSA was chosen to administer the new program because of its reputation for successful administration of the existing social insurance programs. SSA's nationwide network of field offices and large-scale data processing and record-keeping operations also made it the logical choice to perform the major task of converting over 3 million people from State programs to SSI.”
Based largely on records transferred from state agencies across the country, first payments under the SSI program began in January 1974.  SSI payments today are a maximum Federal amount of $733 per individual or $1,100 to a couple if both people are eligible. States can choose to add to this if desired. SSI amounts are reduced by other income, including Social Security.
As of September 2015, the national average SSI recipients was $523.78. More national SSI information as of September 2015, including number of recipients by category and payment amounts is located at

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